One Day At A Time

Learning has always been enjoyable for me. I like understanding why things are the way they are, although, to be honest, I’ve always been more drawn to the theoretical arguments as opposed to the practical ones. For instance, I don’t care very much about the ways that the hydraulics and various mechanical parts of an airplane work. I’d much rather have a discussion about the ethical uses of airplanes in warfare or why people need to fly in the first place. I generally approach machinery with my grandfather’s attitude: if it works, great. If not, you find someone to fix it.1

I’ve always wondered about deeper questions, though. What are we doing here? Why is there pain? Is there a God? Is there a right or a wrong way to live? Why is it important to treat people with respect? Does anything really matter, one way or the other?

With questions like these, it’s no wonder I majored in philosophy in college. The truth is, these days I don’t wonder quite as much. I haven’t found the answers to the questions; honestly, I’m not sure anyone really has, although there are a bunch of really good ideas out there. The reason I don’t think about these questions as much is because I focus so much on the day to day activities that distract me from bigger issues. We all do this, to some extent or another. There are errands to run, bills to pay, jobs to be done, children to care for. I can’t ponder my existence right now; we’re out of milk.

There are still those moments, though, when these questions creep in. I’ve actually found that this happens a lot on those rare occasions when I’m watching the news.2 The world is filled with so much negativity that it becomes easy to throw up our hands and ask, “What’s the point?” Why do we bother plugging along through the daily rat race when we don’t even have the reassurance of a delicious wedge of cheese at the end? I may not watch the news much anymore but I still hear and read about violence in small towns like Ferguson, Missouri and in larger areas like the Middle East or the Ukraine. My own opinions about who is wrong or right in any of these conflicts don’t make much of a difference here. What does matter, though, is how we find the strength to get out of bed every morning to do the things that need to be done.

People cope in different ways. Some look to God or some other higher power and ask for the fortitude to continue through each day. Others keep the faith that there will be a reward coming in the next life and that the way we lead our lives now is our ticket into paradise. I tend to look to my family for strength. My wife inspires me to be the best version of myself and helps me focus on the more uplifting parts of our lives. My son is talking more and more every day and has been using his impish smile and infectious laughter to brighten the lives of everyone around him. Last week I made a quick trip to the supermarket before work and, when Eitan saw me leaving, he yelled, “Kiss!” and ran over to give me a kiss before I left. Then, after he gave me a hug as I was leaving for work, he asked, “One more hug?” and I obliged happily.

I don’t have the answers to the questions we all ask at some point or another. Even if I did, there’s a strong likelihood that the answer that would work for me wouldn’t be as satisfying for someone else. I tend to believe that people go through each day doing the best they can, given their specific circumstances, and that some days are going to be more difficult than others. But we still push through, knowing that bad things are still going to happen all over the world. My hope, at least, is that I can use the love and the strength I get from my family to help make my little corner a little better and that things will turn out all right in the end.

Where do you get your strength from? Feel free to leave your input in the comments section.


1. My grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force as a radio operator. He got through almost all of basic training before someone finally realized he couldn’t be allowed to fly a plane because he wore glasses. Then they asked him what he knew about radios and that was the answer he gave.

2. If you’re still a person who tunes in every evening, try this exercise out: count the number of negative stories that lead that night’s edition and see how high you get before you hear a positive story. Last night, Trudy and I made it through three and Trudy said she’d had enough and changed the channel when the fourth came on. I certainly try to be a fairly well-informed member of society but you’ll have to forgive me if I would rather not be thinking about murders, assaults and robberies while I’m getting ready to fall asleep.

The Interrogation

I actually wrote this a few weeks ago but it got put on the back burner. Eitan’s speech is improving by the day and he’s stringing together phrases of two or three words fairly regularly now, to the point where we can almost have a “normal” conversation. This was pretty typical of the kinds of exchanges we would have so I had some fun with it. Also, if you’re interested in some fantastically hilarious videos of adults acting out these kinds of conversations, check these guys out.


So I heard you went to the beach today.


Yeah, the beach. Did you go to the beach today?


Is that a question? Are you not sure if you went to the beach today?


Did you go to the beach today? Yes or no?


Oh okay. What did you do there?


What did you do at the beach?


Yes, I know you went to the beach. What did you do there?


You went in the pool at the beach?


What did you do in the pool?


You went swimming in the pool?


Yeah, did you go swimming in the pool?




Oh, your tube? Did you wear your tube in the pool?


Oh okay. Did you swim with your tube?


That’s good. Did you have fun?


Who else was there?


Who else was in the pool with you?


I know you were in the pool. Was anyone swimming with you?


Right, you were swimming in the pool. Was anyone with you?


Was Mommy in the pool with you?


Okay. Was anyone else there?


Oh okay. Did you eat anything at the beach?

A ca cone!

You had an ice cream cone?


Wow, that was a very clear “s.” Was it yummy?


Oh good. I’m glad you liked it. Was it chocolate or vanilla?


Mmmm, chocolate. Do you like going to the beach?


Maybe next time Daddy can come with you and Mommy.


Yeah, I’ll come and we can play at the beach.

Dada pay beach?

Yeah, Daddy will play with you.

Pee mom moll?

You want your Ping Pong ball? I don’t know– oh, it’s over there under the couch.

Dada catch?

Okay, go ahead, throw me the ball…

The Toys Are Alive!

As anyone who has cared for a toddler will tell you, it’s hard to get young kids to stay in one place for an extended period of time. They have what my brother calls “Ooh Shiny Syndrome,” which means they get distracted by everything and they want to investigate every distraction. That’s why, when we’re able to sit and eat together, we try to get rid of all of the “shiny objects.” The television stays off, there are no devices at the table and we try to just enjoy each other’s company. We try to eat together every night and I’d say we’re successful at least five or six nights per week (my work schedule makes eating together difficult sometimes, but we can usually work it out).

This past weekend, Trudy, Eitan and I were eating dinner together and the scene was just as I described it. The television was off, the toys and phones were away and we were just sitting and spending time together. Then, suddenly, Cookie Monster’s voice interrupted our conversation:


Eitan, like many toddlers today, has a number of toys that make noise. A Little People carnival, a V-Tech turtle that teaches letters, numbers and colors and a gigantic Fisher Price fire truck are just a few examples. They’re basically all the same; you press a button and the toy plays music or talks to you or plays some other sort of sound effect. The Cookie Monster toy is slightly different because it relies on sensors to trigger the noises, rather than actual buttons (the Rock ‘N Roll Elmo, is very similar in that regard). You put cookies in Cookie Monster’s mouth, his mouth “chews” them and he swallows the cookies. They slide through his “throat” and end up in the red backpack he’s wearing so that you can take them out and feed him again. If you stop playing with him for a minute or two, he prompts you to play more. He suggests, “Me think there may be more cookies in me backpack.” Or, if your toddler misses the subtlety, Cookie gets more direct: “Me want cookie, please!” Leave him alone for a few minutes and he stays quiet. But then, last weekend…


We were at the table and Cookie Monster was clear on the other side of the room. No one had touched him, and certainly no one had fed him a cookie, which is usually what prompts that exclamation. Eitan, of course, immediately got out of his chair and went to play. We were able to bring him back by bringing Cookie Monster to sit with us too (we also pretended to feed Cookie Monster spaghetti and meatballs to get Eitan to eat more), but it got me thinking. I couldn’t imagine that we were the first people to experience their kid’s toys spontaneously coming to life. In fact, I’d heard a number of stories about the Baby Alive that Trudy had when she was young. She and her parents kept the toy exiled upstairs because its voice was so creepy that they couldn’t stand to listen to it on a regular basis, and they still heard the baby’s “voice” calling to them. So I put out some feelers on social media and gathered some anecdotes about other parents’ and caregivers’ experiences with their kids’ toys coming to life:

‪Creed Anthony, Tales From The Poop Deck: The creepiest was an Easter gift that we got and it made a road trip with us. We traveled at night and right when my daughter was about to fall asleep, we hit a nice bump on the freeway and the duck started to quack. Needless to say, she cracked up and we did too. Eventually she fell asleep, as did my wife, and that deranged duck quacked from Indy to Cleveland. It was like the beginning of a horror story.

Mike Heenan, At Home Dad Matters: There was a Melissa & Doug Sound Puzzle left in a tent outside our bedroom window. We heard “N is for nails…” all night long until we figured it out the next morning.

Jeff Bogle, Out With The Kids: One night last week, the Mrs. and I were talking and laughing about something ridiculous or maybe it was something else. That’s when we heard it. The jive-talking giggling of Tah Do, our resident pink & black striped Furby Boom. Something had woken her up and she was as talkative as a 10-month-old in a crib as the sun fights through slotted wooden blinds, and making about as much sense. We freaking lost it. (This was an excerpt from the blog post Jeff wrote about the Furby. You can read the whole post here.)

Chris Gould, Blog of Manly: My daughter had a Violet Leap Frog toy, and she would roll over it in the middle of the night and we would hear “Hello, Olivia” in a creepy mechanical voice – imagine waking to that from a deep sleep through the baby monitor!

(For the record, Violet got a lot of mentions; Chris just happened to be the only person who specifically agreed to be quoted. But it seems pretty clear that parents do not like Violet.)

‪Scott Posey, Father Nerds Best: We have Scout. Scout can be [annoying]. If you don’t turn him off by pressing a small button on his foot, he’ll bark at you randomly – especially when you’re trying to put your son to sleep. Or, also when you’re trying to put your son to sleep, he’ll inform the world how to spell your son’s name. Thanks Scout, that was really helpful.

‪Chris Camacho: I own a children’s resell store and one day I walked in the store at about 5 am to get some stuff done. I walked in and I heard a conversation happening toward the back of the store. I cautiously approached and heard one of the voices truly sounded demonic. I thought about calling the cops until at the last moment I recognized Tad. The other voice was Dora but her batteries were about shot and she she was slow and much lower pitched. Freaked me out.

‪James Cameron, Home Is Where The Mouse Is: We had a Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Puppy. Would talk and sing randomly when no one was in the room with it. Sometimes in the middle of the night. So annoying.

Les Westfall, Jr.: I buried a dog behind the garage that liked to talk without batteries. Demon puppy. Sang evil songs. It has a grave marker of an old princess potty.

(James and Les were hardly the only two people who referenced the Fisher Price dog. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but parents seem to hate the Fisher Price version.)

‪Shawn Weil: As toddlers, my kids had a baseball toy – think “tee ball” for the 18-month-old set. If you hit it it would say “you have a double” or “it’s a home run!” The problem? Once you stopped playing with it, though, the trouble started. 30 seconds after the last hit, it would play 5 seconds of the applause of the crowd. Same at 90 seconds after the last hit. It constantly freaked us out.

So what does all this mean? Maybe nothing; maybe there’s just a glitch in circuitry or the house settles a bit without us realizing and that’s what triggers the toys. Maybe ghosts are real and they’re just messing with us.1 Maybe the electronics have become self-aware and we’re going to meet John Connor and Ah-nold sooner than we thought.

Or maybe, just maybe, Sid was right:

Feel free to share your own stories in the comments section below!

1. I have a friend, Mike, who used to do stand-up comedy in college. He had a bit where he talked about the kind of ghost he will be when he dies (I’m paraphrasing): “Some ghosts are angry; they torture and terrorize people because they have some sort of unfinished business or they need revenge. Some ghosts are friendly, like Casper. Me? I’d be an inconvenience ghost. I’m not really out to hurt anyone, I just want to have fun. I would be the kind of ghost where you get woken up at 2:00 in the morning because you hear the toilet flush and you yell out, ‘Damn it, Mike!'”